Celebrated my all-expense-paid trip back to Key West with my Canadian friends at the campground. Packed my gear and signed on with the Fantasy, a 50’ Challenger ketch moored at the Balboa Yacht Club, the next day.
10 March, Thursday Panama City
Up kinda late as we had fun last night. Lounged around the pool al morning, recovering from some raunchy rum. Later we drove to our favourite restaurant and just ate ourselves silly. For $1.65 I had a gigantic cauldron of soup and a heaping plate of chop suey con puerco, both excellent. On into the city where I cashed in my ticket to and from Costa Rica for $46. Then to the Yacht Club.
There was the yacht ‘Fantasy’, riding serenely at anchor. My home for the next few months. Spent the rest of the day and night getting acquainted with the boat and crew. Certainly looks good.
11 March, Friday Colon, Panama
Up early. Today: The Panama Canal. The pilot boarded at 7.15 am. We weighed anchor and motored under the Puente de Las Americas and entered one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times: the Panama Canal. Real pretty scenery up to the first set of locks, Miraflores, then across Miraflores Lake to the last uphill banks at Pedro Miguel.
The lock passages, really very interesting, went extremely smoothly as we were able to raft up next to a tug at all three locks. From Pedro Miguel we passed through the Galliard Cut where the builders cut right through the backbone of the Americas, the Continental Divide. Quite impressive. The ditch ran fairly straight for about nine miles to Gatun Lake. The 25-mile path through the Lake was real easy. Lush jungle came right down to the Lake and deadheads popped up to the surface.
By the time we hit Gatun Locks we were ready. A very smooth passage downhill through three successive locks then a quick run over to Colon Yacht Club where we anchored off for the night. All in all, an exciting and very memorable day.
12 – 14 March Colon
Cleaned and prepared the Fantasy for passage to Cartagena via the San Blas Islands. Captain Jim took care of the paperwork…slowly. Exit visas, cruising permits, crew changes, etc. Had to clear both US and Panamanian Customs.
15 March, Tuesday Porto Bello
Up not so early as Jim still had to fight it out with his bureaucratic foes and the Port Captain’s office didn’t open ‘til eight am. So after a quick breakfast of Post Toasties and milk, Brian and I scrubbed the hull and waterline. Took about two hours of diving. Sat around for a few hours, shooting the breeze with other denizens of the Yacht Club.
Finally, at 12.15pm, with all of our stores safely aboard, all our papers in order, we loosened the lines and motored out of Limon Bay through the breakwater back (for me) into El Mar Caribe. Sure nice to be back on the water.
We motor-sailed along the coast to the beautiful bay of Porto Bello, reaching it by 4.30pm. Quite impressive coming in by sea with the castles, forts and cannon. Quite a trip. Anchored off the village and ate a superb supper of steak and potatoes. A great day.
16 March , Wednesday At sea off the coast of Nombre de Dios
Well, we’re starting to settle into a routine aboard the ship. We spent all morning fooling around with the sails, polishing chrome, etc. There is always plenty to do. Took it easy in the late afternoon. Sure is pretty here in Porto Bello. Ate a good supper of spaghetti.
Our plans are to leave Porto Bello on the tide and sail all night to Porvenir, just off Punta San Blas. We weighed anchor just as darkness was settling over the harbor and sailed out, right over Sir Francis Drake’s watery grave. Strong winds and heavy seas made for an exciting night run. This boat is a peach, sails well. We zapped past Nombre de Dios along the coast, passing freighters and stayed far off-shore.
The next morning we rounded Punta San Blas and entered a whole new world.